Friday, November 15, 2013

I've Seen This One Before

Today the House is scheduled to vote for the Upton bill, at least unless conservatives decide at the last minute that it really is a fix, and therefore helping Obamacare.

Some Democrats will vote for it.

A quick hint: House Democratic votes for Upton, in a situation in which the bill won't be coming to the Senate floor, may be an indication that Republicans have successfully crafted a bill that puts pressure on Democrats to split their votes. But it's not an indication that Democrats are abandoning the ACA.

This happened just a month ago, when Republicans during the shutdown brought up a series of mini-CRs and successfully peeled off some Democrats on those, too. Some Republicans convinced themselves at the time that this was an indication that Democrats were splitting, and that Republicans were going to win the shutdown. We know how that turned out.

Whether it's a deliberate leadership strategy or not, House Democrats worried about re-election appear perfectly willing to defect on symbolic votes set up by Republicans to make political points. Nancy Pelosi and the leadership are either unable to prevent it, or -- more likely -- don't care and don't try to prevent it.

So when Yuval Levin predicts that Democrats who vote for Upton "might well never come back to the Obamacare fold," don't believe it. There's an enormous difference between playing along on a symbolic vote and abandoning a policy Democrats are stuck with, like it or not. And the truth is: most of them almost certainly do like it. What's more, as long as there's no plausible alternative that could work better for them, they really, at the end of the day, have little choice.

At any rate, whatever the chances are that they eventually bail on ACA, this vote isn't about that. Just as symbolic votes during the shutdown didn't indicated that Democrats were divided (or, for that matter, that Republicans were unified). If Republicans do make that mistake again...well, at least they'll be consistent.

9 comments:

  1. I find it strange that so many people are fixating on how Congressional action will impact the ACA's implementation, even to the point of speculating that it could be repealed. In reality, the ACA is guaranteed to be implemented until at least January 2017, which is the first time a (Republican) Congress could pass an ACA repeal/overhaul bill that could be signed by a (Republican) President.

    Until that time the only unknowns are: How will the ACA be implemented by Obama and what impact will the ACA's successes and failures have on the mid-term elections? Even if the Democrats lose 10 Senate seats and 40 House seats in 2014, nothing is getting signed into law unless Obama approves it, and he's not going to approve anything that will seriously damage the ACA.

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    1. Then again, if anything happened to both Obama and Joe Biden, guess who's president? John Frickin' Boehner. Just saying.

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  2. "So when Yuval Levin predicts..." Okay right there, that should set off the alarm bells. Levin is like the Criswell of conservative policy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKT_TXzPtWY

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  3. 39 Democrats voted for Upton. http://blogs.rollcall.com/218/the-39-house-democrats-who-defied-obamas-veto-threat/ Basically every Democrat who might have a serious race next year, or who is running statewide (e.g. Gary Peters, who is running for Senate in Michigan). But far, far short from a veto-proof majority. So purple-district Democrats get a little CYA, while Obama won't have to swallow any serious changes to the ACA.

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  4. If the Democratic leadership doesn't care how many Democrats vote for Upton, why would Obama have issued his administrative fix? I suppose one possibility is that they don't care about Upton, but do care about Landrieu.

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    1. Well, Upton is going nowhere in the Senate, so Democratic votes for it are pretty meaningless. Republicans won't allow Landrieu's fix to progress, either. So the administrative fix was the only one that was going to happen anyway.

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  5. I suspect that the White House could live with the defections they suffered today, but many more than that would have pressured the Senate to pass something. A veto-proof majority would have been the worst-case scenario.

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  6. The 39 did what they felt they had to do. They're for the most part vulnerable and from swing districts, and they had to protect themselves, or thought they did. The interesting thing is that on the motion to recommit, which would have covered their derrieres, only four Dems defected. The vote on the Upton bill was left as the only game in town. It doesn't mean anymore than that.

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  7. It was predicted by some that 50 Democrats would defect. Is it possible that Pelosi and the leadership told some potential defectors from reasonably safe districts "look, we don't care if Democrats from swing districts defect--in fact, if that's what's necessary for them to get re-elected, we want them to--but with you it's a different story..."

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